Energy News

Getting Off the Grid: IKEA Leads the Way in Wind Energy

(3BL Media and Just Means)-The Windy City is about to get windier. And hopefully, less reliant on fossil fuels.  IKEA recently announced their purchase of Hoopeston Wind, a wind farm of 49 wind turbines near Hoopeston in Vermilion County, two hours south of Chicago.  The purchase is the first wind power investment IKEA has made in the USA and their largest renewable energy project ever.

Coca Cola is the David that the Slingshot Needs.



"The Slingshot is the little tool that David needs to defeat Goliath"—Dean Kamen.

Florida’s Untapped Solar Power

(3BL Media/Just Means) I've spent the summer living in historic St. Augustine, Florida. The surf is great, the people are friendly and the sun shines brightly every single day. The sun is powerful here, powerful enough it seems to produce enough solar energy for most of the nation.

Federal Agencies Saving Surprising Amounts of Energy

Talk about flying under the radar! While the White House and Congress are in gridlock, with the legislative body doing everything they can to ensure that nothing is being done about climate change, a number of provisions that were included in the 2007 Energy and Security Act that was passed during the Bush administration are quietly being used to produce enormous energy savings for the American people.

According to a white paper by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), actions that have already been taken, are planned, or that are now underway, could have a net present value, through 2040, of $2.6 trillion. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire US government tax revenue for the year 2013. It also equates to 34 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and a reduction of energy consumption equivalent to 3.4 million barrels a day. For comparison purposes, the US has been emitting somewhere between 5 and 6 billion metric tons per year since 1990 and imports roughly 9 million barrels of oil per day. That works out to an annual reduction in emissions exceeding 20%.

These actions are being taken through various Federal agencies including DOE, EPA, Dept. of Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These include appliance standards (both existing and proposed), vehicle standards (existing and proposed), power plant standard (proposed), and housing policies (existing and proposed). Results are shown for the cumulative estimated savings by 2040 in the table below.

New White Diesel Fuel Can Save Energy, Reduce Emissions

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - One thing we can say for sure: people are not likely to give up the convenience, freedom and utility offered by motorized transportation as long as there are options available. Given that our current fleet of gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks are emitting huge amounts of climate-wrecking carbon dioxide, it’s clear that things have got to change. With all the options on the table: hybrids, electric, hydrogen, compressed air, and a myriad of alternative fuels, it’s anyone’s guess how things will look, even a few years from now, never mind a couple of decades down the road.

Ultimately, if we are going to stick around, we’ll be driving cleaner cars—the cleaner the better, and the sooner the better. What if we could drive a car that used today’s technology, only powered by burning water? That would certainly be very clean—no carbon, no methane, no particulates, sulfur or nitrogen. Of course, we know that water doesn’t burn, but diesel fuel does. And researchers have known for years that a small amount of water can be added to diesel fuel to extend fuel economy while also burning cooler and cleaner. Generally speaking, experiments have found reductions as high as 90% in particulate matter as well as a 37% decrease in NOx.

This can be accomplished with a water-fuel emulsion achieved by blending the two liquids together as if making a milkshake. Researchers in New Zealand found that a mixture containing 12-15% water worked best.  The problem with this is, like with a milkshake, that if you let it sit for a while the two liquids will begin to separate at which point the engine will stall. So the challenge has been to find a way to stabilize the emulsion.

Now, a British company called SulNOx Fuel Fusions claims to have found a way utilizing nanotechnology to create fuel-water emulsion that they call “white diesel.” According to a company press release this emulsion improves fuel economy and reduces emissions “by improving atomization of the fuel and lowering engine temperatures. “

The presence of water in the emulsion has the effect of “breaking down the fuel particles [which] increases their surface area which helps the fuel to burn more completely and efficiently.”

First Commercial-Scale Advanced Biofuel Plant Opens in the U.S.

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The primary efforts to develop biofuels around the world have traditionally involved conversion of sugars in plants into ethanol. However, to produce biofuels on a mass scale, sugar cannot be a viable raw material because of its alternative use as food. This is where cellulose becomes a promising alternative, provided it can be converted economically into ethanol.

Debate Over Economic Value of Renewables Brings Out Heavy Hitters

A recent article in The Economist describes a blog post by Charles Frank of the Brookings Institute in which he questions the  methods that have been used to compare renewable energy sources with more traditional sources like coal, gas and nuclear.

Drawing on the work of Paul Joskow of MIT, Frank claims that the generally accepted levelized cost models, which essentially divide the total lifetime system cost by the total amount of electricity produced, do not adequately discount the value of renewables sources like solar and wind based on their intermittent nature. Joskow’s reasoning is that since these intermittent sources vary their output at different times of the day and the year, that should be reflected in their value, since the demand for, and the price of electricity also varies throughout the day, at least in the commercial market.

So, given that wind, for example, produces electricity mostly at night, when the power is less valuable, that should be reflected in the value of a wind investment. Solar, on the other hand produces mostly at mid-day, when the power is most valuable, so it may be getting short-changed by the levelized cost approach.

Frank started with Joskow’s premise, then went on to perform a detailed analysis of various energy sources, based on avoided emissions and avoided costs, which revealed, he says, that contrary to popular belief, solar and wind are the least cost-effective way of producing low carbon electricity, followed by hydro, nuclear, and finally at the top of the list is combined cycle gas turbine power. Written from the perspective of building new electric generation capacity, Frank concludes, “Assuming that reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are valued at $50 per metric ton and the price of natural gas is not much greater than $16 per million Btu, the net benefits of new nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle plants far outweigh the net benefits of new wind or solar plants.”

The problem with an analysis like this is, given the rapidity with which renewable energy costs are dropping, trying to compare them with traditional sources is akin to trying to catch a falling knife. Frank’s data was obsolete by the time the ink dried on the page.

In addition, the analysis is highly sensitive to the eventual market price for carbon, which could swing the results dramatically. Also not considered is the impact of energy storage which could easily neutralize the liabilities that form the basis for Frank’s thesis.

Bulk Electric Storage Not a Requirement For Widespread Use of Renewables

 

(3BLMedia/Justmeans) - Physicist Amory Lovins has been at the leading edge of energy alternatives since well before most people ever heard of climate change. Far from an idealist, he is a hard-nosed scientist who has done the math to show what is possible if we are willing to think outside the box. His two latest books, Winning the Oil Endgame, and Reinventing Fire, lay out in detail the ways that our society can wean itself off of oil, coal and nuclear through a smart deployment of renewables, efficiency, with a bit of natural gas thrown in as a bridge fuel, all while growing the economy by double digits.

Lovins, along with his crew at the Rocky Mountain Institute put together a prototype 100 mpg Hypercar back in 2007, introducing groundbreaking technologies that car companies have been racing to catch up with ever since.

Now as the world has begun heeding his advice, Lovins has rolled up his sleeves to identify the various conceptual, physical, economic, political, and technological roadblocks that threaten progress and is busy dispelling them wherever he can. The latest is the idea that due to the intermittent nature of various energy sources, we can’t reliably implement renewables on a large scale without massive investments in energy storage.

Here again, Lovins has done the math, with a series of simulations. While it’s true that many renewables are intermittent, new smart grid technologies are quite responsive. Lovins presents the solution in terms of choreography, his word for a dynamic matching of electricity supply with demand. The fact is that sunshine and wind do come and go, but they do so in a fairly predictable manner. About as predictable, says Lovins, as the demand is. He also points out that since no power generation source is completely reliable, that grid has already been designed to accommodate that.

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